Operation Stingray Part 1 // Pg. 1 of 3
What follows is the original text of Operation Stingray, as posted on /r/NoSleep, a short horror story forum where all stories are written and read as if real. Operation Stingray won NoSleep's award for Best Multi-Part Story of 2013. Season pass holders for The NoSleep Podcast can listen to an audio adaptation of the story online.
I don't have much time. None of us do.
I'm going to be leaving out some details and changing others. I have no way of knowing which of you is already working for them.
In fact, you don’t even know if you’re working for them.
Christ, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let me start from the beginning:
I'd known Brian since college. We lived on the same floor freshman year and had some intense Call of Duty battles while everyone else was out improving their social skills. He was an asshole, but he was my kind of asshole, and I took a liking to him.
He was a computer science major and I was in the music school. To this day I don't know a damn thing about computers, but I would get a kick out of listening to him talk about that stuff. He did a lot of black hat hacking and would constantly make reference to bizarre documents and schematics he had pulled off of government computers. To me, the contents of these supposed documents sounded ridiculous. Bioengineered doomsday viruses! Underwater experimentation labs! Laser cannons in space! I was convinced he was making it all up.
After graduation we both stayed in the city, but weren't able to see each other much due to our respective work commitments. We'd get together every few months or so, and he'd always have some new piece of government conspiracy meat for me to chew on. When we last had drinks over the summer, he told me he was looking into something major, something called Operation Stingray. He claimed there was serious security around even the most innocuous references to it. A very, very big deal, he had assured me. I had simply nodded and challenged him to some drunken Team Fortress.
“Can't tonight, man,” he'd said, “but when I blow the lid off of this thing, I'm going to Pyro your ass like the old days.”
“Sure thing, Brian,” I said. “Let me know how that works out for you.” That was the last I'd heard from him for months.
Then, out of the blue one night, he texted me:
Brian: Need to talk. Meet me at [local restaurant] tomorrow at noon. Don't mention this to anyone.
Me: Sure man. Everything ok?
Brian: I don't know. Just please don't be late.
I chuckled. Always so dramatic.
Lindsay rolled over in bed. “What's up, hon?” she said.
“Nothing, babe. Just Brian being Brian again. Go back to sleep.”
I arrived at the restaurant a few minutes before the lunch rush. Across the street there was a protest going on outside of one of the big downtown banks. “Money for schools! Not for bonuses!” they chanted.
Brian staggered in. Week-old scruff, pale and puffy skin, bloodshot eyes, sweat. I'd seen him like that a few times in college, but Christ we're supposed to be adults by now. He clutched a crumpled manila envelope with both hands.
“Morning, beautiful,” I said.
“Thanks for coming, man. I didn't know who else to call. I'm sorry.”
“Dude, relax, sit down.”
He glanced around the restaurant and took his seat. He didn't let go of the envelope.
“Were you followed?” he said.
“Listen to you, 'Were you followed.' Are you serious? Look, we can pretend to be spies but only so long as you don't actually creep me out.”
He reached into the envelope and pulled out a small white pill. He held it out to me.
“What the hell is that?” I said.
“Just take it.”
“Dude, I am not going to get fucked up with you in a crowded restaurant in the middle of the day.”
“It's not, it's...it's just a vitamin. Take it.”
“Since when did you become such a health nut?”
“Just fucking take it, man, please.” His eyes, wild and desperate, evaporated any trace of a smile from my face.
“Okay, okay, chill.” I took the pill and swallowed it. “Happy?”